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Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Act 4, Scene 1

The narrative began with Act 1, scene 1 on April 10, 2013.
To access all scenes, scroll to blog archive at the bottom of the page.

Without warning, the room fills with women – all of them adopting rather stern poses, hands on hips, or arms crossed – intently focussing their gazes on the one man present. Newkirk slowly gains control of himself, snaps shut his open mouth, nervously clears his throat.

Uh ... hello everyone ... ? I didn't expect ... I mean how did you ... ? Uh, welcome. He looks around the room, now beginning to recognize some of these women. Helen Frankenthaler leans against the wall at the rear of the crowd, quietly smoking a cigarette (in this non-smoking building!). Looking like a granite monument to Golda Meir and staring out the big window is Gertrude Stein. Berthe Morisot, Lee Krasner, Frida Kahlo, Georgia O'Keefe, Käthe Kollwitz, Lee Miller, Louise BourgeoisElaine de Kooning, Agnes Martin, Kara WalkerColette Whiten, Shary Boyle, Joan Mitchell, Bridget Ryley, Faith Ringgold, Daphne Odjig, and several others Newkirk does not recognize stand shoulder to shoulder. Things looks a bit scary, from Newkirk's point of view. And something strange is happening to the faces. He must be imagining this, but it seems that each time he glances up, some of the faces have changed; other women appear and disappear; the group is not static. They fade in; they fade out. He becomes the cliché of a befuddled man, rubbing his eyes and shaking his head.

The woman who just a moment ago so abruptly interrupted his revery (no ... it couldn't have been her ...) seems to have disappeared.

Now making her way through the crowd toward where he sits (cowers?) in what has begun to feel like a child's swivel desk chair, is a petite young woman with extraordinary posture and physical presence. This, he realizes, is Marie van Goethem, the model for Degas' bronze, La Petite Danseuse de Quatorze Ans.

Marie, in a voice as silky as olive oil and with a mesmerizing French accent:
Bonsoir, M. Newkirk. You luke a beet pale. I 'ope you are feeling okay? 

Uh ...

We have come here to suggest that perhaps it is time to leave alone this legacy of white men that you have been writing about, non? Do you really want to continue to make these small lessons of history, these lessons about white men who think that it is important to pay homage to other white men?

Newkirk (speaking rather too rapidly and nervously glancing from face to face)
Uh, well ... I did have a few more artists I wanted to mention. You see my plan was to trace an artistic legacy right up to the present. AND ... and, I was going to get to some wonderful women artists, really I was, and (with a note of panic) some First Nations artists, and some African American artists, and ... he sounds pitiful, and he knows it.

General murmuring and shuffling of feet in the room.

Marie, with terrifying sweetness
Well ... okay, how about you do this: take a moment to make the rest of your list. Go on. We wait while you do this. But you will dispense with all the blah, blah, blah lessons in history, non? (She glances around at the changing group of other women, many of whom grudgingly nod their assent). You make your list; you make this list with, how do you say, links, oui? and then everybody can look at these links and be happy to know everything! (She smiles broadly now, but Newkirk notices that, as hers is still the only smile in the room, it affords little comfort.) And then maybe ... maybe one day soon you will again talk with some of these people on your list, as you did at the start, non? And then you can tell us again some interesting stories about them if you like. This sounds okay for you?

Uh ... well, uh ...

Bon! (She claps her hands together in apparent delight). And then we will have a nice talk, okay? Maybe first we talk about me! (she lights up) and Monsieur Degas.

Newkirk squirms, and attempts his own smile. He fails.